College Money

4 Steps to Getting More Financial Aid Money

If you’re the parent of a high school senior, I’m betting that you’re a bundle of nerves right about now. Not only are you anxiously awaiting college acceptance letters, but also trying to figure out how you’re going to pay for everything. Although the economy is starting to show improvement, many of you are still recovering from several years of meager wages or loss of savings, which means you are probably counting on colleges to be very generous with their financial aid offers. In fact, how much or how little a college is willing to give you may ultimately decide where your child will be attending college this fall. Unfortunately, you may not realize that there are some steps you can take that will help increase your chances of getting the most financial aid possible. If you are concerned about how you are going to pay for your child’s education, consider following these four steps.

1. Move the Money Around

Before you start the financial aid process, consider moving money from your child’s assets into your personal accounts. Why? On the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, otherwise known as FAFSA, your child’s personal assets are assessed at a higher rate than yours. The federal government assumes your child can use up to 20 percent of his/her savings to help pay for college, but your money will only be assessed at 5.64 percent. Parents’ assets are also protected to a certain extent, but your dependent child would have no protection. Funds you may want to consider transferring include savings bonds, certificates of deposit, savings and checking accounts. Consult with a financial specialist or tax adviser to determine which changes would be best for your family.

FAFSA2. Complete the FAFSA

The sooner you complete the 2014-2015 FAFSA, the better. Every state and college has its own deadline for submitting the form (the federal deadline is June 30, 2015), but don’t wait until the last minute to complete it. Some colleges and states award financial aid on a first-come, first-served basis, so once the money is gone – that’s it. Even if you believe you make too much money to qualify for any federal grants, submit the form, as this is the key to getting institutional financial aid, as well. Even some private scholarship programs require students to submit the FAFSA in order to be considered for their awards. The FAFSA will also give your student access to low-rate federal student loans, should he or she need them. Be sure to review the form for accuracy and check out my helpful guide to avoiding common mistakes, as a simple error could significantly delay your child’s financial aid.

3. Submit All College Financial Aid Applications

It’s a common misconception that the FAFSA will give you access to all available college scholarships and grants. Although colleges use the information from the FAFSA to determine how much aid they will offer, you’ll need to complete the appropriate college financial aid forms, as well. Some schools may require you to complete the CSS / Financial Aid PROFILE® (non-federal financial aid form), in order to receive institutional scholarships and grants. Your child may also be eligible for other institutional aid that is given through the college’s foundation, alumni group, or specific departments. These programs may also require separate scholarship applications and materials. Be aware of deadlines for these programs, as many are in the early spring between January and March. You can typically search for available scholarships on the college’s financial aid website, but don’t hesitate to ask the Financial Aid Office about other opportunities to ensure you aren’t leaving any money on the table.

Ask fo More4. Appeal the Award Offer

Although the FAFSA allows colleges to get an understanding of what your family might be able to afford for college, it doesn’t always reflect the whole picture. For example, a recent loss of employment or change in hours could change your financial outlook for the upcoming year, but the college’s financial aid office won’t know about this unless you provide them with that information. If you’ve recently been hospitalized or had other events that may have drained your savings since filing the FAFSA, you’ll want to let the college know about those changes, too. The financial aid office can reconsider your award package, if you go through the appropriate steps and file an appeal before the deadline. You’ll need to contact the office directly and download any forms that need to be completed. Be prepared to submit documentation to support any claims you make, and spell out exactly what additional funding you will need and why.

Some parents may want to ask the financial aid department at one college to match another college’s financial aid package, but that can be a slippery slope. If you do decide to present other offers in an effort to increase your child’s aid package, avoid using the words ‘bargain’ or ‘negotiation’ as they tend to have a negative connotation. Instead, ask the financial aid officer to consider additional funding based on your child’s desire to enroll or his/her continued academic success over the last few months; most will do everything within their power to ensure your child receives as much aid as possible. The only guaranteed way NOT to receive any additional money is NOT to ask for it. In the meantime, while you are waiting for colleges to present their offers, encourage your child to continue applying for scholarships. Every little bit helps!

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Tamara is the Social Media Coordinator and a regular writer for, and She enjoys helping students prepare for college. As a mother of four, Tamara has first-hand experience with many areas of education, including special needs (autism), the International Baccalaureate program and post-secondary education. She enjoys speaking at schools and mentoring others online. In her free time, Tamara enjoys volunteering and supporting her favorite football team, the Jacksonville Jaguars.
54 Responses to “4 Steps to Getting More Financial Aid Money”
  1. Susie Watts says:

    Great article with good information on the FAFSA. Too many families find the whole financial process too complicated to even bother to apply.

  2. kelvin bass says:

    Such informations are quite helpful. Nice one on FAFSA!

  3. joan says:

    If the childs savings is moved how long must it be in the parents account?

    • Tamara Krause says:

      If you plan to place the savings in your account, do it from the start or at least a few years prior to high school graduation. It will raise red flags if a substantial amount is moved within the last year of school.

  4. Dai Lay says:

    I am planning to move to another state on June after graduate in HS. I want to apply for FAFSA application for the college where i will be moving to. I heard some people said that if you plan to move another state you have to wait for another year to apply FAFSA. I don’t want to wait for one long year. IS THAT CORRECT?

    • Tamara Krause says:

      No, that is not correct. You can file the FAFSA regardless of where you are living. If you are moving to establish residency, however, you may be wasting your time because colleges determine your in-state or out-of-state status based on where your parents live, not you. You would have to meet the qualifications of an independent student to have your residency trump your parents.

  5. David says:

    Wanting to go to an aviation mechanic school. Applied for FAFSA, they said with tax returns for 2013, 2012 made to much. Is not true now for 2014. I have now a 50 percent cut in pay.
    How do I write to FAFSA to appeal? Or can I.


    • Tamara Krause says:

      Hi David. Your 2014-2015 FAFSA is based on your 2013 income, not your current income. Although you cannot ‘appeal’ your FAFSA, you can speak with the financial aid department at your college and explain the changes in your employment/income. They have the ability to adjust the amount of need-based aid provided to you. You’ll need to provide documentation to show your income status has changed and is expected to remain the same for the upcoming school year, but ultimately it’s up to the school to increase your aid or not.

  6. Jyrell says:

    My husband lost his job the first April and now they didn’t give my child Pell Grant. What do I needed to do or do I needed to call financial department at school? Please let me know. I’m try to find money from some where but I don’t know what to do. Please help and thank you.

    • Tamara Krause says:

      Please contact your financial aid department and alert them to the change in your financial situation. They may be able to recalculate your child’s adi package for the upcoming year.

  7. Amy says:

    Is it true that students whose parents have college degrees receive less aid than students with non college educated parents?

    • Tamara Krause says:

      Hi Amy. Your college financial aid is based on income, not your parent’s level of education, but people with a college education tend to earn more than those w/o a degree. So, students with parents who do not have a college education may find themselves in a lower income bracket and eligible for more financial assistance than students whose parents have an advanced degree and a larger income.

  8. Via Conlon says:

    Does my having a 401(K) account, brokerage account, stock holdings, etc.. mean less or no financial aid for my high school senior?

    • Tamara Krause says:

      Although pensions, annuities and the cash value of a life insurance policy – known as a whole-life policy – is not reported as an asset on the FAFSA, any other taxable and non-taxable income must be reported. This includes interest and dividends, Social Security, child support, workers compensation/disability income and other assets held by you. In general, a family of four must make less than $29,000 to qualify for any Pell Grant aid. Even if your income is much higher than this threshold, it’s important to complete the FAFSA, as most colleges require it in order for students to receive any institutional aid, including merit-based scholarships. It’s also to only way to access federal student loans, which have lower interest rates and offer more flexible repayment options.

  9. Kimberly says:

    I am a single parent making roughly 40k a year and seeking as much financial aid as possible. My child was receiving child support at the time we completed the FAFSA, however since the completion of the FAFSA my child has turned 18 and no longer receives support. We were hoping to qualify for a Pell Grant but unfortunately we didn’t. Is the child support causing the disqualification and if so can we make changes to FAFSA in hopes of now qualifying or will those changes only ‘possibly’ benefit us next year?

    • Tamara Krause says:

      Hi, Kimberly. Is this the 2014-2015 FAFSA? If so, then the income loss that happened in 2014 would not change anything on the FAFSA, but could possibly help you for next year. Even with the loss in child support, your income may prevent you for receiving a Pell Grant. The typical family income is under $30,000 for a family of four. In the meantime, I encourage you to contact the college financial aid office and alert them to this change in your financial situation, as they do have the power to increase your aid. Be prepared to bring along documentation to show the change in income, as well as other financial paperwork (pay stubs, tax forms, etc.) to support your request for reconsideration.

  10. Cristine Crispin says:

    Hi Kimberly, I recently received the total amount of money I received from my FASFA. The amount isn’t going to be able to cover enough of my school tuition. Is there any ways I can talk to someone to request more money for my FASFA. I won’t be able to attend my College without it, thank you.

    • Tamara Krause says:

      Hi Christine,

      You would not contact FAFSA in this case. Your college determines how much financial aid you receive based on information from the FAFSA. I encourage you to contact your financial aid office and discuss your situation with them. If there has been a change in income since filing the form, they may be able to increase your financial aid package. If the financial aid offered still doesn’t cover the majority of your expenses, you may want to consider attending another college with lower tuition rates.

  11. Christine says:

    Hello. I am looking for any information on receiving assistance with secondary education. I would like to attend a “private” for lack of a better word massage school that does not deal with grants. They advised me that they can pick and choose their students and do not have to except certain people. I am a single mother of two and I make under $35,000. Any information would be greatly appreciated! Thanks

    • Tamara Krause says:

      If you choose a school that does not receive federal funding, you’ll find your opportunities for financial aid are very limited. I would encourage you to look into programs at your local community college, as you may qualify for federal assistance and have access to low-interest federal loans, which have more flexible repayment terms than private loans. Most private scholarship programs will also require you to attend an accredited college or university, so be sure any school you choose falls within this category. If it doesn’t, you’re pretty much on your own to cover the costs.

  12. Luis Pineda says:

    Hello. I just got my financial aid award for 2014-2015. This is my first time that I applied as independent, I turn 24. Last year, I got a lot more money in federal grants compare to this year. I only got 20% of what i got last year but I reported the same income. Why is that? I thought been independent would guarantee more money than reporting my parents instead of the opposite. What else can I do?

    • Tamara Krause says:

      I would review your FAFSA and make sure there were no errors. If you still feel your EFC was too high, or your financial aid package was too low, contact your college’s financial aid office and ask them to review your Student Aid Report (SAR).

  13. Erik J Finnerty says:

    I am about to retire from the military and use my Post 9/11 GI Bill. This, in essence, is like having a “free ride” to the college that I will be going to. My question is this. I will be looking for part time jobs and was told to look into a company that pays tuition. If I work that job, and my tuition is already paid for will I be awarded the tuition money that the company would be paying to the school?

    • Tamara Krause says:

      Hi, Erik. Typically, businesses that offer tuition reimbursement as an employee perk only cover tuition and fees that you pay out-of-pocket. In most cases, they will not reimburse you for tuition that is already being covered by another scholarship, grant or GI Bill. It’s best to speak with the HR department to determine what remaining balance, if any, would be covered through your employee benefit program.

  14. Viral D says:

    Hi I applied for first time for a loan through Fafsa and I got approved for a direct unsubsidized loan for amount more than the actual fee for the Graduate degree. What happens in this case? I am getting about $3000 more than the actual fee. Will it be adjusted against next term fee or I would be refunded that amount. Is it possible to take a loan only for the actual fee for the term? In this loan can we repay the principal as well as interest while we are still in college?

    • Tamara Krause says:

      When you receive a loan through the federal government, it includes more than just your tuition. You may borrow up to 100% of the cost of attendance (COA), which includes not only tuition and fees, but also anticipated living and travel expenses (rent/housing, food, transportation, etc.). If you don’t need the entire amount, you don’t have to accept the full loan. In fact, I encourage you to borrow only what you need. If you take the full loan and don’t use the money on tuition and fees, some of the proceeds may be treated as income and you may have to pay taxes on it. You may begin paying back your loan at anytime without penalty.

  15. Jorge says:

    Hi. Last year I made around $30,000 but this year I decided to quit my job in order to focus on school. I am still looking for a job and the next semester is about to start. Is the anyway I explain this in the FAFSA application? Thanks.

    • Tamara Krause says:

      Hi Jorge. The income you make this year will not have any bearing on the FAFSA because it uses income from last year. You can, however, speak with your financial aid office and explain the change in income to them. They may be able to offer you additional financial aid. The good thing is that when you complete the new FAFSA in January for the 2015-2016 school year, you should be eligible for more aid.

  16. Danny says:

    I have two kids that will be attending college within the same year. Will they receive more or less federal aid by attending the same time or should I let one wait until the other has completed college?

    • Tamara Krause says:

      It’s actually better to have both enrolled at the same time, as your Expected Family Contribution will be lower per child, which could result in more aid.

  17. Stephanie says:

    I am still in need of financial aid after being awarded some grants, scholarships and an unsubsidized & subsidized loans.
    My parents make too much money, and have bad credit because of some difficult years financially several years ago. Thus, they were denied for a ParentPlus loan.
    Besides getting someone else with good credit to co-sign a loan, what can I do to obtain additional financial assistance?

    • Tamara Krause says:

      Obtaining a private loan with the help of a cosigner is probably your best bet, but I would also encourage your to apply for more scholarships and try your luck at crowdfunding. If you still find that you cannot afford your college’s tuition and fees, you may want to consider starting at a community college or looking into a cheaper school.

  18. MiChelle says:

    Hi. I am a continuing grad student that has transferred to another University. When feeling out my application to the University I mentioned that my employer offers Tuition Reimbursement and my financial aid award amount was reduced. I do not receive the funds from my employer until after the course is taken and will be out of pocket those funds until reimbursed. Is there anyway to get more money awarded so I will not have to pay out of pocket until I am reimbursed? Would you recommend appealing financial aids decision?

    • Tamara Krause says:

      Appealing the decision will probably not result in any change, as the college views your employer’s tuition reimbursement program as a source of financial aid. Although you will have to pay the fees up front, you will receive the money back shortly after the semester ends. If you can swing the fees, this is the best option for you, as you should only have to pay out-of-pocket the first semester. You can use your reimbursement check to fund the following semester and so on. If that’s not an option, take out a federal student loan and pay it back as soon as you receive your funds.

  19. Irene says:

    My son is beginning his 2nd year of college. Last year he received a 2 year NSF scholarship and some financial aid. We still paid for some of his expenses and he is very frugal, so he saved some of his scholarship money for future tuition. Will having $10,000 in his bank accounts hurt his prospects of keeping his need-based aid this year? When reporting his assets on FAFSA it states not to include scholarships or grants. Should he then only report what he has saved from other sources such as gifts and odd jobs? Thanks!

    • Tamara Krause says:

      If he did not spend the money he received on qualifying educational expenses (tuition, fees, etc.), anything that remains would be considered income. Not only will he have to include this on his FAFSA, but he may also be liable for income taxes, as well. Any income he has is also assessed at a higher rate than any assets you or your husband may have, so this could potentially decrease his need-based aid package. If, however, he uses the entire amount to cover his spring tuition (paying the fees prior to March) he should be fine (IRS allows you to count expenses during the period that includes the beginning of the academic year or the first 3 months of the next year). Speak with a financial planner to see how you may be able to mitigate the potential decrease in aid, as you may be able to place those funds in a different type of account to lessen the impact on his financial aid.

  20. Lisa says:

    Hi there,

    We have a son starting his senior year and I am trying to prepare for the FAFSA application.

    Recently my husband and I did a refi and took out money for a construction project that we will be doing summer of 2015. FAFSA is going to ask how much is in our money market/savings account and our balance will show our 20,000 for construction. What should we do? Also I have EE & I bonds in my name for my son’s education. Do I have to report them, if I haven’t redeemed them yet?

    Thank you

    • Tamara Krause says:

      Hi Lisa. Any money you have in savings and checkings at the time you apply for FAFSA (January) will need to be reported, so if you can prepay any of the expenses for your 2015 project, I would do so before December 31. You will have to report the bonds because they are considered an asset but thankfully they are in your name, so those funds will be assessed at a lower rate (up to 5.64) and not the higher student rate of 20%. I would encourage you to meet with a financial adviser to assess your current situation. You can also use the FAFSA4caster to get an idea of how much financial aid your son may be eligible to receive.

  21. Joan says:

    Hi there!

    I have filled out the fafsa for the last four years for my daughter who will graduate college spring 2015. My other daughter turned 18 in Dec 2013 and I was still able to claim her on my taxes/fafsa – but she will not graduate high school until spring of 2015 – so I will not be able to claim her on my 2014 taxes. She is starting to look at colleges and apply for Fall of 2015. How will this effect the fafsa filing for my second daughter? I only make about $35,000 a year and my first daughter was eligible for grants and aid packages.

    Thank you

    • Tamara Krause says:

      Hi Joan. You will still be able to claim your daughter on your taxes. Dependents must be under 19, or full-time students (24 and younger). As for the FAFSA, even if your income is about the same, you may receive less aid for your second daughter because your older daughter will not be enrolled in school when your second daughter enters college. Please encourage your daughter to start applying for scholarships, as this may help offset any reduction in aid you may receive.

  22. Olga Gonzalez says:

    Hello Tamara, its good reading your article from personal experience with your own.. I’ve recent moved to Atlanta from PR to seek better work opportunities. My son has been attending all thru his elementary to High School a small Baptist Christian School. He has had a preference towards Computer engineering or science and he is bilingual, His grades and Sat are in average score.
    I am presently looking for a Job in this affected economy so i have no funds to help my son at present.
    Where do i start and what possibilities could he have of getting a scholarship to cover most of the expenses.

    • Tamara Krause says:

      Hi Olga. Please be sure that your son completes the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), as this will give him access to federal grants, scholarships and student loans. This will be available beginning January 1, if he is a senior this year. I also encourage you to have him register for a free account with He should be trying to apply to at least 4 or more scholarships per month. There are many scholarships for engineering students, so the early he starts applying the more chances he’ll have to win. Since you are currently unemployed, this may actually benefit your son, as he’ll most likely be eligible for need-based aid from any institution he attends. Very few students, however, earn enough in scholarships to cover all their expenses. Most use a combination of federal, state and institutional aid, along with private scholarships and student loans.

  23. MaritzaQuintana says:

    I am enrolled part time. So i did not use all the money I got awarded. So I was wondering what happens to that money that’s leftover? Do you get to keep it?

    • Tamara Krause says:

      If there is any money remaining in your student account, you’ll typically receive a disbursement of those funds 6-8 weeks after the semester begins. Keep in mind that you will not be eligible for the same amount a full-time student would receive and your aid is awarded on a year-by-year basis.

  24. Amani says:

    So I I qualified for both subsidized and Unsubsidized loan but I was only offered the subsidized loan and not the Unsubsidized loan I don’t have a job I am a full time independent student who is also married. What should I do to receive my other part of my loan that I qualified from fasfa? And it’s my first time too to apply for fasfa so I have no balance with fasfa

    • Tamara Krause says:

      Although you may qualify for both types of federal loans, you will only be eligible to receive financial aid up to the total cost of attendance. I would speak with your financial aid office and ask if you have reached the maximum allowed for the semester/year.

  25. Joe says:

    Hi, I had a child a few months ago will I get more aid rewarded since are family is now 3 instead of 2 with the same income?

  26. Diana says:


    I have been getting student loans as my financial aid. Turns out I will reach my limit amount of loan money for a dependent student in the spring 2015. I will turn 24, so my status will change to independent. Would that make me elegible to get more money from student loans? I know the max limit is different for dependent VS independent status. I just don’t know how that would all work out. I am also planning to go to school spring, summer and fall 2015. Would I be able to get any aid for that?

    • Tamara Krause says:

      Hi Diana. Whether you can receive additional funding depends on a few factors. One, regardless of your status as an independent or dependent student, you can only receive funding for up to 150% of the time expected to complete your undergraduate degree program. For example, if you are in a 4-yr program, you would only receive funding for up to 6 yrs. Second, if you have time still available, your change in status may allow the school to recalculate the remaining time at the higher rate. The best thing to do is visit your financial aid office and find out what you may be eligible to receive so you can start planning ahead for any gaps in aid you may have going forward.

  27. Richard Siebel says:

    Hello, This is good information. One question I have regarding the FAFSA forms is if our daughter submits a form showing her part time job during high school and no assets, how is it that they only qualify for a low interest loan? Would they not be under the 29,000 threshold and at least qualify for some form of federal aid? Also, once you fill out these forms, do you have to complete a separate one for each school or once completed can one form be sent to all schools? Lastly, once a college application is filed out and submitted, can the FAFSA be sent a few days later or should it be done at the same time?

    Thanks for your help.

    • Tamara Krause says:

      Hi, Richard. If your daughter is under 24, her income and yours will be considered in determining her eligibility for aid. Student income is also assessed at a higher rate than yours. You only need to complete the FAFSA once per year and you can have it sent to any school your daughter may be applying to for next year. You won’t be able to complete the FAFSA for 2015-2016 until after January 1, so she will most likely submit her college applications first, which is fine. Once a college receives your SAR (student aid report) from the FAFSA, it will determine her eligibility for federal and institutional aid.

  28. Karen says:

    Hi there,

    When my daughter fills out the FAFSA for next year 2015/2016, it will be her 2nd year of college. She used my income last year(I am divorced) for the FAFSA. She has a work study job and will have a side job to help with paying her rent and living expenses. She plans on filing her own taxed for 2013. Will she still be able to use my income on the FAFSA or does she use her own? She is really worried about how filing her own taxes will affect the FAFSA?

    Thank you!

    • Tamara Krause says:

      If you daughter is still under 24, not married or in the military, and does not have any dependents, she will need to include your income, as well as her own. Her financial aid amount will probably change based on her income, as it is assessed at a higher rate than yours when determining eligibility for federal aid.

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